Sony PlayStation Network Breach: 10 Things to Know About Online Security

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-04-27 Print this article Print

News Analysis: Sony's disclosure that an "illegal intrusion" into its "PlayStation Network" has compromised the personal identity information of millions of customers shines a harsh light on the risks of cloud commerce. Here's what you should know to protect yourself.

After a continuing outage of its PlayStation Network and its Qriocity site, which allow consumers to play games and access entertainment content, Sony has revealed that personal information has been compromised by an "illegal intrusion" into its systems.

The company has requested that the more than 77 million people using PlayStation Network examine their credit reports going forward to ensure they haven't been a victim of the outside threat.

It's a difficult time for Sony, to say the least. And the chances of the company overcoming the damage to its PlayStation business and reputation anytime soon are slim. But for consumers, simply blaming Sony right now probably isn't the best idea. Analyzing credit card statements and ensuring personal information hasn't been compromised should be the first priority.

Beyond that, it might be a good time for everyone to have a bit of a refresher on online security. As the cloud becomes an increasingly important aspect of the average person's daily life, they must keep in mind several security-related factors that are integral to limiting the impact such breaches might have on their lives.

Simply put, Sony's PlayStation Network breach says quite a bit about online security. Read on to find out what that is:

1. No company can be trusted

Sony is a well-respected brand name in the technology industry. Yet its reputation and experience in the IT industry didn't prevent hackers from penetrating its network and stealing customer information. If that doesn't tell the average consumer something about trust, nothing will. No matter what the size of the company or how well-respected it is, it's best not to absolutely believe that personal information is safe with it. Anything can happen. Sony's breach is proof of that.

2. Share information only when necessary

It's extremely important for people around the globe to  share information online only when it's necessary. In far too many cases, cloud-based services ask for personal information, credit card numbers and even Social Security numbers. When it comes to the Web, sharing only what's necessary to sign up for a service is always the best practice.

3. Some issues are beyond the user's control

When IT managers evaluate the security of their organizations, they always consider human error. They realize that sometimes people click on the wrong links, download malicious software or engage in unsafe browsing habits. However, at times, security issues break out through no fault of the users. Sony's PlayStation Network breach is a prime example of that. In those cases, there isn't much a user can do.

4. Fight comfort

One of the worst mistakes a person can make when it comes to online security is to fall into a sense of comfort with sharing information. It's a major mistake for a person to believe that since nothing bad has happened so far, they can continue to share information across the Web with no chance of recourse. It only takes one breach or one mistake to wreak havoc. And in this case, Sony's PlayStation Network issue is that one breach.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at

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